You know you’re supposed to be eating broccoli, bananas, sweet potatoes, berries, oatmeal, and other healthy foods. But no! Instead, your pregnancy cravings are driving you 10 miles out of the way to get cookies, hamburgers, fries, chocolate… whatever.
But seriously, you cannot mess with pregnancy cravings. They’re strong! And they are not afraid to involve other people, like if you’re asking your husband at 11 pm to go get ice cream because “the baby needs it.”
Why Do You Get Pregnancy Cravings?
There are a few reasons:
- The most likely is that you have nutritional deficiencies—you are craving the things your pregnant body wants;
- You have a heightened sense of smell and taste; or
Unless you are a diabetic, doctors say it’s okay to indulge in your food fantasies now and again. However, you should try to keep those pregnancy cravings in check.
Pregnancy cravings typically begin during the first trimester, and they peak in the second trimester. However, they can pop up anytime during your pregnancy.
Healthy Alternatives To Pregnancy Cravings
The irony about these cravings is that your body may be asking for sugar, but instead of satisfying that need with fresh fruit, you’re hearing “candy bar.”
It’s important that you listen carefully so that your baby gets the nutrients he/she needs. Here are a few healthy, (and yummy) ideas you can try:
- Instead of sodas, drink infused sparkling water, iced tea, coconut water, or a homemade smoothie;
- Instead of potato chips/crisps, eat baked potato or tortilla chips, popcorn, pretzels, banana chips, tofu chips, baked taro chips, butternut squash chips, kale chips, tomato chips, crispy chickpeas, roasted cauliflower nuggets or roasted broccoli;
- Instead of a hamburger, eat a veggie burger, a bun-less chicken burger, a grilled portabella burger, or a turkey lettuce wrap;
- Instead of ice cream, eat sherbet, sorbet, low-fat frozen yogurt, or nice cream;
- Instead of rice, eat wholewheat couscous, gluten-free quinoa, cauliflower rice;
- Instead of french fries, eat sweet potato fries, taro fries, zucchini fries, carrot fries, avocado fries, parsnip fries;
- Instead of sugary sweets or cake, eat an oatmeal raisin cookie, banana nut bread, angel food cake topped with strawberries, or cinnamon raisin toast;
- Instead of regular pizza, try different crusts like whole-wheat pitas or use a whole grain pizza crust. For better nutrition, top it with roasted vegetables;
- Instead of donuts or pastry, eat a whole grain bagel with strawberry cream cheese spread, or cinnamon raisin toast;
- Instead of sugary, low fiber cereals, eat whole-grain cereal or oatmeal topped with a little brown sugar and cinnamon, raisins, cranberries or berries;
- Instead of fried chicken, eat air-fried or baked chicken that has been coated in panko;
- Instead of sugary ice cream and sundae toppings, sprinkle it with nuts, berries, sliced bananas;
- Instead of canned fruit in syrup, eat fresh fruit, frozen fruit, or unsweetened canned fruit;
How To Prevent Pregnancy Cravings
Women who report cravings tend to gain more weight than is generally considered healthy during pregnancy. This can lead to a higher rate of complications, so you really should try to avoid those cravings as best you can. Here’s how to do it in a smart way:
Eat Breakfast Every Day
If you start the day well-nourished, you’ll be less susceptible to midmorning snack cravings. You can begin with a balanced breakfast of your choice, but do try to incorporate at least one whole grain and one fruit into your meal.
Eat More Frequent, Mini Meals
Don’t skip meals. Being hungry can trigger pregnancy cravings, so your goal would be to avoid getting hungry. Then instead of sitting down for 3 big meals, (and feeling hungry in between those meals), break your meals up into several mini-meals and snacks.
Plan Your Meals and Snacks
You have to try to outsmart those pregnancy cravings by planning healthy meals and snacks. Have them ready to eat when you start feeling peckish. This is a really helpful tip because you’re likely to eat things that are not necessarily good for you if you have not already planned your meals.
Train Yourself To Think Small
You are not eating for two. You’re just eating a little bit more than what you are used to. Therefore, you don’t need the entire bag of chips. Train yourself to eat only what your body needs.
Exercise has been shown to help reduce cravings. With your doctor’s approval, try to maintain an exercise routine.
Substitute Your Pregnancy Cravings For Healthier Options
If you’re craving fries, your pregnant body probably needs salt. Think about ways that you can give your body what it needs, without giving in to the pregnancy cravings.
Get Emotional Support
Before your pregnancy, you may not have been an emotional eater. However, pregnancy will put you on a hormonal roller coaster and that can make you more vulnerable to mood swings. Who knows, you may turn to food, instead of talking with a friend or your partner to help ease stress or frustration.
When the cravings come, try to distract yourself. Do whatever you need to do to get your mind off it, like going for a walk, playing a game, talking to a friend. If your cravings are just not going away, try to listen to what your body is asking you, and find a healthy way to answer.
Indulge In Moderation
Don’t fight your cravings. Pregnancy cravings are your body’s way of signaling to you that it needs the sugar, the salt, or whatever it is you are craving.
If you cannot be bothered to find a healthy alternative for that craving, indulge in moderation. A small serving might be enough to satisfy you. (A clever trick learned from Dr. Oz is to have a bite of the thing you crave, then drink water to rinse your mouth of the flavor. With the flavor gone, you may not be as easily reminded.)
Common Pregnancy Cravings
In the USA, the most common pregnancy cravings are for dairy and sweet treats like chocolate, fruits, and juices. Less commonly, we crave savory or salty foods like pickles, chips or pizza.
If you’re craving pickles, you probably need sodium. If your favorite pickles are not too high in sodium, go ahead, eat up because pickles are low in calories. They’re also an inexpensive snack to keep on hand.
If you are feeling low or depressed, you might be craving chocolate because chocolate makes us feel happy! However, chocolate is high in fat and calories. If you absolutely have to, have a bite, then drink water (to rinse out the flavor of the chocolate) because chocolate is not a great choice if consumed in large amounts.
- have dark chocolate, or;
- throw a few semi-sweet chocolate chips in your yogurt, or;
- drizzle some melted chocolate over your fresh strawberries.
To cool down during pregnancy, some of us eat spicy foods like curry, hot wings, or hot peppers. It makes sense to do so because spicy foods will make your body sweat, which will naturally bring down your body’s temperature.
You are good to go on eating spicy foods during pregnancy unless you’re reaching for fried, spicy foods.
If you are craving ice cream and/or yogurt, you may have a calcium deficiency (or you just love ice cream). Try to prevent those cravings by eating calcium-rich foods like cheese and milk.
Craving lemons has been associated with a vitamin C deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia. If this is you, add a few drops of lemon juice to your water, or sparkling water for a refreshing drink.
Sodas have a ton of sugar. If you have to have some, keep your serving small (half cup).
If you’re after the fizz, try sparkling water spiked with a dash of fresh fruit juice. If you’re after the sweet, try a healthy sweet alternative instead. Sodas should be avoided, especially if you’re dealing with gestational diabetes.
Having said that, we’ve been told that ginger ale helps to ease morning sickness. If this is you and you find ginger ale to be effective, keep your servings small and only drink it if you feel a bout of morning sickness coming on.
If you’re craving red meat, you may have iron or protein deficiencies. If you can eat it in moderation, great! You can satisfy your craving by choosing leaner cuts. In other words, skip the fatty rib eye and go instead for the sirloin cuts.
If you are craving fruit, your body may be asking for vitamins and nutrients like vitamin C. Fruit is a healthy option, provided of course you are eating fresh fruit and not canned fruits in heavy syrups.
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